One the Barefoot Bandit missed

Harris-Moore arraigned Nov. 18 in Seattle

November 22, 2010

More facts are emerging as the authorities continue to investigate the activities of Colton Harris-Moore, the infamous 19-year-old better known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” who was arraigned Nov. 18 in Seattle on five federal charges. Harris-Moore, of Camano Island, Wash., is the suspect in an international crime spree that included the theft of at least five airplanes (see “ Could It Happen to You?” in the November AOPA Pilot).

Bill Anders was at Orcas Island Airport in Eastsound, Wash., where he keeps his Cessna Corvalis TT, when a sheriff’s deputy asked him if his hangar had been broken into—then showed Anders the crowbar marks on the hangar’s side door, which he doesn’t use.

The fact that Anders didn’t top off the airplane after his previous flight—something he normally does right after landing—might have saved his aircraft.

The belated discovery that his hangar had been entered, apparently by Harris-Moore, answered some questions Anders had—like what the pilot’s operating handbook for his fast, Garmin G1000-equipped airplane was doing on the table in his hangar office, instead of in the aircraft where he normally kept it. “I’d been gone for a week or two, and when I got back and found the POH sitting out, it didn’t register,” he explained.

“He was actually in my office, making phone calls to his mother,” Anders said, adding that records of the calls eventually may be used as evidence in court. Harris-Moore apparently removed the POH from Anders’ airplane and spent time studying it while he was there. “He turned the airplane on, and activated the G1000, and found out the thing was about out of gas,” Anders said, hypothesizing that was the reason his airplane wasn’t taken. “He was doing his homework. He was a pretty smart guy.”

Harris-Moore was indicted Nov. 10 by a federal grand jury in Seattle on charges that he took a stolen airplane, firearm, and boat across state lines; of being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, and piloting an airplane without a valid airman certificate. Four of the five federal charges have maximum sentences of 10 years.

Harris-Moore was arraigned on the charges Thursday, Nov. 18. He appeared in federal court in Seattle and his attorney, John Henry Browne, entered pleas of not guilty to all of the charges. Browne is trying to negotiate a plea deal in which profits from a book or movie deal would be used to reimburse Harris-Moore’s victims, according to media reports, but those reports could not be confirmed.

Anders said Harris-Moore apparently lived, secretly, for a time in an attic above another pilot’s hangar at the airport—and studied the manuals for other aircraft on the field, including a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop. “I think it’s an interesting twist—the airplanes he didn’t steal,” he said.

Even though Harris-Moore remains in custody after being caught July 10 in the Bahamas, after he is presumed to have crash landed a Cessna Corvalis he stole in Bloomington, Ind., Anders is taking additional steps to secure his airplane. For one thing, he no longer leaves the keys in his airplane when it’s parked in his locked hangar—something he used to do before the Barefoot Bandit began visiting the airport.